Friday, March 14, 2008

What is your Story?

One of my first assignments/meeting I took part in this company is to create a "service definition" for our "e-Learning Practice". The practice was 6 months new to the company and we were actively in business - Thanks to the "inorganic growth" and the customers who remained with us with the management change. The "service definition" is part of our quality process and systems. The compliance and audit trail will map and match this definition with practice work to ensure we stay on course. Hence falling under the purview of quality assurance team, we were meeting the quality head of the company for mentorship on the thoughts and the steps to create our "service definition".
When the meeting started, we were expecting templates, devilish level of details and forms to be filled in, the non compliance areas and penalties, the drills and procedures, what micro level do we document, track and trace, etc. However, the opening statement is a 2 minute pitch and it was on these lines. (Not reproduced verbatim)
"You are hiring a consultant in a distant location and will be airborne to a client site immediately on offer. What will you tell him and how will you ensure that he does a good job and satisfies the client. The consultant is experienced in the domain but not on the "way" that you expect to "Wow the customer". So how will you communicate the way to the consultant."

Sounds simple? Look at the details - It requires
1. Every single step mapped out,
2. Every single document listed,
3. For every document - a template created,
4. For every template - a design and thought applied,
5. For every design and thought, a checklist prepared,
6. For every checklist, an audit planned, and from here on
7. "A great improvement-fixes-validate" cycle steps declared, defined and detailed.

Did we care for these details when the quality head told this story? Not me atleast, but it was impressive enough to dive into details and start work. But only when we got the job, the "full story" came through as sunrise on a sunny day.

Did the story motivate me - Well "yes" - wouldn't it for you if you are starting a practice or a company on one service ? So can we identify the merits required in storytelling from above case: 1. Make a compelling context bordering on "Worst Case" hypothesis: In this case, sending a fresh hire, however senior to a project and that too on a client partnering role is bound to be scary for every manager, handling projects and clients. However there is always a realization that this could always be a reality in many situations. Hence any document or details required for such a target audience is always going to address all important points in the priority list order.
2. Do not explain the details: The story makes an impact only when felt and not told. For every question or solution, anchor your response to the questions posed by central theme of story. Repeat the story and ask if the Q/A context fits the central question of the story.
3. Practice the delivery: Amitabh and Rajnikanth are iconic superstars for their styles of dialog delivery. Hence the story you say, must be ,with your own conviction and importantly true to your style.

Have you told your story for getting work done?

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